By: Del Rogers
After a recent speech to a large gathering of pastors, one preacher asked, “Why have you given us the ingredients of your program? Don’t you know that many of will use them on our own and you will lose the business?”
When I shared with a close pastor friend that I was preparing an article based on that speech, about the things that are necessary for a successful church stewardship program, his comment was, “That’s crazy! You’re giving away the store. Why do that?”
The answer to each of those questions is the same: “We want what is best for each congregation.”
There are 300,000 churches in America. I estimate based on figures I have heard that half of them will remodel, expand, build or relocate in the next few years. Many churches will decide to simply borrow and pay interest for the project or will decide to “do their own” fund raising without a stewardship consultant.
Unfortunately, we have found that churches which try to do their own programs, generally raise less than one-third of what could be raised with professional help.
So, this article is written for those churches who decide, for whatever reason, “to do their own.”
The following guidelines or encouragement’s help to fulfill that purpose. Perhaps the use of them will increase chances of success in your own effort.
Use professional stewardship consultants.
I was the seventh stewardship consultant to come before a large church two years ago. At the conclusion of my presentation a man asked, “Who is your biggest competitor?” I knew what he expected to hear. He expected me to give him the name of one of the fund-raising organizations they had already heard. But I surprised him with this answer: “You are. You are my biggest competitor.”
That is almost always the case. Most churches feel that they can “do their own program.”
Last year after a presentation to a church council, one man said, “Last year we did our own program and raised $200,000; we ought to be able to do our own again and raise $400,000!” Fortunately, the council decided to bring a professional stewardship consultant onto their team. The consultant conducted a program as it should be done that had a tremendous spiritual impact, and raised $2,300,000! If they had done their own program and raised $400,000 they would have been satisfied, but they would have lost $1,900,000 and more importantly, they would
have lost the great stewardship revival that occurred because all the people were challenged to grow spiritually and then and only then make a financial commitment.
What to look for in a consultant: The consultant is a “short-term staff member,” and should meet all the criteria that you would apply to a member of your permanent staff.
First, the stewardship consultant should be a committed Christian.
Second, he should be an active member-heart deep-in a local church. Talk to his pastor.
Third, he should be schooled, trained and practiced in working with churches in the area of capital stewardship programs. He should also have an excellent track record. Talk to his clients-use the approach used by some mission boards in selecting missionaries; ask for references and then ask those references to give you someone else to contact.
Fourth, he should be compatible with you, both in personality and in spirit.
Even if you do not employ a stewardship consultant, let us consider other ingredients of a successful capital giving emphasis. This list is neither exhaustive, nor all inclusive. There are a few good books that are available that will help you with the technical side of fund raising.
My concern is to give you the basic ingredients of a capital stewardship program in a church which will bring in dollars, but more importantly, will also bring spiritual growth in the grace of giving.
Allow enough time.
One of the first mistakes that churches make when trying to their own program “do their own program” is to fail to give enough time for the program. If the only desire is to raise some money, that can be done on the spur-of-the-moment. But you will raise more, if you allow enough time.
The Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, “I want you to grow in the grace of giving.” That growth takes time. By the way, Paul’s stewardship program for the Corinthians had already stretched over a year (1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor. 8,9).
Seldom can a church conduct a proper stewardship emphasis in less than three months. Most will take four to six months: this includes preparation time, public portion and the conclusion.
Growth in the stewardship area is difficult for many people. They should not be rushed, and, in fact, most people will not allow themselves to be rushed.
Invest adequate time. The return in both financial and spiritual growth will be well worth it.
The church leadership must be committed to the task. So committed that they are willing to take the daring and courageous steps necessary to bring it to pass. Simply put, church leaders must lead.
Kind David, in 1 Chronicles 29, said, in essence, “Because I have set my heart on the house of my God, I am willing to lead in this fundraising appeal for the building of the temple.” He took the bold step of leadership. When David stepped forward, he was joined by every other person in a leadership position from the tribal chiefs to the work supervisors. The Scripture says that when the leaders gave willingly the people followed and also gave willingly.
Enlist strong, capable leaders who will set the example of sacrifice of time, talent and treasure. Your people will then follow willingly.
One large, fund-raising organization, years ago, had as its philosophy that if a church hired them to raise $100,000, and they got that from one person, then their job was complete. On the contrary, a stewardship emphasis should involve all of the people-not just the affluent.
An effective stewardship program will involve one-third or more of the adults as workers. (And up to 90 percent or more in giving.) They may not all have major jobs but they will be a part of “something big for our Lord.” With this personal involvement comes a sense of deeper personal interest in the church. Nine years ago, we conducted a program with a church to build a new sanctuary. They raised the money and built the auditorium. On one of my visits back to that church, a little lady who was in her 70s stopped me and said, “Del, thank you for getting me
involved. I am so proud of my new church sanctuary.” Her involvement was one day a week for four weeks stuffing envelopes. Her commitment was $5 per week for three years ($780)-but the building was hers-not just the building of the rich people in the church.
Involve all the people!
When people are involved, they should be trained. Another mistake that comes with “do-it-yourself programs,” is to recruit someone for a job and say, “go do it,” without giving them the training, information or materials they need to do the job.
The old saying is true, “A job worth doing is worth doing right.” Train people to do their assignments. Do not leave them with a task and no instructions. That can cause terrible frustration; but full instructions lead to success and excitement.
Give positive meaningful and specific training!
This could have been first on our list because it is the most important thing that is done during a stewardship emphasis. Someone might say, “Surely the most important thing is the money that is raised.” Well, that is important. You would not be going through all of this if you did not need the money, but our experience has been that you will raise more money and have a deeper spiritual impact if you first challenge your people to pray. Not just general praying, but specific praying. Each family is encouraged to pray for God’s will for the whole church. Dr. R.G. Lee said, “When you preach, you get what preaching can do and that is something. When you teach, you get what teaching can do, and that is something. But, when you pray, you get what God can do and that is everything.”
A stewardship emphasis should bind people together. It should encourage, challenge and lift every family to a new level of spiritual growth. Is that too much to ask of a stewardship program? No, it is not, if it is built on a foundation of prayer!
People have a tendency to be down on what they are not up on. People want to be up on what is happening. They want to be informed. In fact, people will support the project more enthusiastically and will ultimately give more to the project, when they fully understand it.
Your people will pray most effectively if they are informed about God’s will for the church as revealed to church leadership. Don’t keep all the information within the leadership-share it with every family.
Use every means to share information-verbally, (announcements, messages, Bible studies)-visually (the printed page-bulletin inserts, newsletters, brochures)-combined audio/visual presentations, (video, film, slides, multimedia), any way
that information can be shared.
Shall we gather.
Bring all the people together for a concluding event. I like to call this event the celebration. It is often the largest gathering of the people in the church’s history. It should be a time of love and fellowship and worship and celebration.
What are you celebrating? The church is celebrating the blessings of God in the past. God has done wonderful things in and through your church during these past years. But we must not stop there. The church must not rest on its laurels. She must catch the vision of God’s blessings in the future. Because of who God is and because of His promises, we can celebrate in faith what God will do in and through the church in the years ahead.
Let your people celebrate! God has blessed in the past, celebrate! God is with us today, celebrate! God has even better things for us in the days ahead, celebrate!
One pastor told me he had gone through most of the steps but only raised $200,000 of a $1 million need. As I reviewed with him things they had done, it became apparent they had cut corners at every stage, but the most glaring mistake was they never came to a point of receiving the people’s commitments. He told me they were afraid someone would complain, so they just left it open for people to give when, and if, they wanted to.
That sounds proper, but it is really a disservice to the people and to the Lord. You have involved the leadership and, through them, the people. You have trained workers. You have challenged every family to pray for God’s will. You have informed them of the vision God has placed in the heart of the pastor and leadership. You have celebrated the past blessings, and the promised future
blessings of God on the church. Now the people are ready to make a decision. They want to support the church. They want to be a part of that exciting future. Give them a chance to participate and be blessed because of that participation. You do not have to ask them to give. They are ready and eager to have a part.
Remember, you have not rushed them. You gave them time to grow. And grow they did! They have decided to make a sacrificial financial gift. And, for most of your people, it will be the largest single gift they have ever made. But it goes far beyond that. They have also made a deeply meaningful spiritual commitment to be better stewards in every area of life. This has been an exciting process in their lives. When something good happens to us, we want to share it. Give them that chance. Receive their commitments.
One last word.
Conserve and enhance the results. Follow-up is tremendously important. Commitments have been made for a specific period of time, generally three years. During that time there are two major areas that should receive continued emphasis:
*Continue to inform the people. Let them know how their money is being used. In a building program, say to the people regularly, “We broke ground!” or “We raised the walls!” or whatever has taken place since the last report. “We were able to do that because of your faithfulness in giving. Keep up the good work!” Keep the people informed!
*Inform, enlist and involve new families in the support of your project. Families which God will give you during the next three years will want to be a part of every area of your church-including financial support. Give them the same opportunity you have given your present members, the chance to support God’s work, to grow in the grace of giving, to be a blessing and to be blessed.
Del Rogers, founder and president of Stewardship Enrichment, has worked with hundreds of churches during the last 10 years in a successful stewardship ministry. Stewardship Enrichment has offices in Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds a bachelor of business administration degree from Baylor University and is a deacon in First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas.
(The above material originally appeared in Ministries Magazine.)
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